‘Old Friend’ prefers to visit late at night


When I cannot sleep at night, I am often visited by the ghost of the Rev. Ernest Miller. “Old Friend,” as I like to call him, served Asbury from 1918 to 1920 during the last pandemic. In the following dialog, he is EM and I am PW.

EM: (staring intently at me) “What happened to the top of your head?”

PW: “I was putting something into the trunk of the car and raised up and hit my head on the latch of the trunk.”

EM: “Did it hurt you?”

PW: “It didn’t do me any good.”

EM: “I knew those horseless carriages were trouble the first time I saw them. Remember to keep your head down.”

PW: “Thanks, Old Friend. I’ll try. On a different topic, what did you do when you could not sleep?”

EM: “That’s simple. I counted sheep.”

PW: “You mean like the old cartoons, where people imagined sheep jumping over a fence?”

EM: “No, silly! I mean actual sheep. I would get out of bed and walk over to the farm on Fountain Avenue and count the sheep in the pen. They had at least a dozen or so. By the time I would do that and walk back to the parsonage, I would be sleepy again.”

PW: “I’m sorry to tell you this, but there is no farm on Fountain Avenue anymore. In fact, there is no farm anywhere in the city of Delaware.”

EM: “You’re kidding! What happened to them?”

PW: “They sold the land and tore down the barns and built houses. And they keep building them. The only ‘farms’ are the words in the names of the developments. So that makes it hard to count sheep.”

EM: “I’ll have to say, I don’t know what you people are so worried about that you cannot sleep. When we had a pandemic, our medical care was very limited. About the only thing we could do was cover our mouths so that we did not breathe on each other.”

PW: “Well, now that you brought that up, wearing a face covering has become a contentious issue for us. People are saying that they should be able to do whatever they want to do.”

EM: “In a pandemic? What are they thinking?”

PW: “I’m not sure I’d call it thinking. Some people, without any medical degrees or expertise, are undermining the people who are trying to help us.”

EM: “That is so upsetting. If I weren’t dead, I’d have a hard time sleeping, too. In my day, we were grateful for every bit of medical advice we could get. We watched too many people die of things you surely can treat now.”

PW: “I’m sure that’s true. But you didn’t have FOX.”

EM: “We most certainly did have foxes! They used to get into my neighbor’s hen house.”

PW: “I’m sorry for the confusion. FOX News is not an animal. It’s a cable television network.”

EM: “Cable? Television? Network?”

PW: (changing the subject) “So, Old Friend, what is the good word? We need one for today.”

EM: “That’s easy. I often preached from Isaiah 40.”

PW: “You mean the passage about waiting on the Lord?”

EM: “You bet your Methodist circuit rider saddle bags!”

PW: “We don’t ride horses anymore, but I think we are still reading the same texts. The passage begins, ‘Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength …’”

EM: “They shall mount up with wings like eagles …”

PW: “They shall run and not be weary …”

TOGETHER: “They shall walk and not faint.”

PW: “You know, I’m starting to feel sleepy again. Thanks, Old Friend.”

EM: “You’re welcome. Hang in there. This, too, shall pass.”


By Rev. Philip Wilden

Your Pastor Speaks

Rev. Philip Wilden is the pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church, located at 55 W. Lincoln Ave. in Delaware.

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